Language : English 简体 繁體
Focus Recommends

A New Deal for China’s Workers?

By Cynthia Estlund

Harvard University Press, 2017

When imagining Chinese labor, a recurring depiction involves unregulated, exploitative sweatshops, comprised of workers deprived of their ability to take action. Cynthia Estlund’s book, A New Deal for China’s Workers? offers readers an opportunity to understand Chinese labor without the distortion of what she calls “western-tinged” glasses. Estlund, a leading expert in U.S. labor and employment law, turned to China seeking to expound on the nation’s complex labor relations as it sits on the cusp of great potential for reform. For the Chinese working class their demands include higher wages, as well as an actual voice — not one muffled by state-regulated unions. Estlund approaches this topic through a comparison of this moment in Chinese labor relations to the American New Deal in the 1930s, which brought unprecedented reform to the U.S. workforce. When the “western-tinged” glasses are removed it becomes clear that America can be doing much more when it comes to improving the lives of our workers, and perhaps can even learn from China’s recent efforts in labor reform.

  • This highly readable story of the recent struggle of China’s workers for a better life, and the Communist Party’s complex responses to their demands, will surely meet the urgent need for greater understanding of this dynamic, non-transparent nation. Cynthia Estlund, a leading expert on American labor, has given us a balanced and sophisticated picture of China’s vastly different, rapidly changing labor scene. Like all great comparative studies, it also moves us to reconsider the accomplishments and drawbacks of our own government and even suggests what we might learn from the Chinese.

    Jerome A. Cohen

    New York University School of Law
  • For those who want to know more about the current status of labor in China, A New Deal for China’s Workers? is a must-read. Addressing labor issues in the United States and China, Estlund goes beyond the common view that workplaces in China are all sweatshops even as she questions China’s prospects for controlled liberalization of trade unions and labor NGOs. The results are enlightening and provocative.

    Mary Gallagher

    University of Michigan
Back to Top